In Florida, it is a crime to leave the scene of a car crash if the collision causes an accident or death. As demonstrated in a recent case, however, the act of doing so only constitutes a single crime. In other words, a person cannot be charged more than once with an offense related to leaving the scene of an accident, as multiple charges that stem from a singular incident may be considered a double jeopardy violation. If you were charged with one or more crimes following a car accident, it is prudent to speak to an assertive Florida criminal defense attorney to assess what arguments you may be able to set forth in your favor.
Facts of the Case
Allegedly, the defendant was driving his car along a Florida highway and had one passenger in his vehicle. He suddenly struck another car, resulting in the sudden death of the driver. Additionally, the impact caused the second vehicle to crash into a third vehicle that was occupied by a passenger and a driver. The two people in the third vehicle and the defendant’s passenger all suffered injuries. The defendant left the scene of the accident, however, without trying to render aid to any of the injured parties.
It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes arising out of the accident, including one count of leaving the scene of an accident that involved death, and three counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. A jury convicted him as charged, after which he appealed, arguing that his convictions violated double jeopardy.
Double Jeopardy Violations
On appeal, the court noted that even though the defendant had not preserved his claim that a double jeopardy violation occurred, such a violation is considered a fundamental error. Therefore, it can be raised for the first time on appeal. The court went on to explain that the act of leaving the scene of a car accident permits only a solitary conviction, even if the accident caused harm to multiple people and the death of a person. In other words, the conduct involves a single episode of departing from the scene, despite the fact that the collision involved numerous cars and victims.
The court explained that when a defendant’s multiple convictions violate double jeopardy, the proper solution is to vacate any convictions for lesser offenses and affirm the conviction for the greater offense. Here, the defendant’s convictions for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury were lesser offenses of leaving the scene of an accident involving death. As such, the court vacated his convictions based on the lesser charges.
Meet with an Experienced Florida Attorney
There are many protections afforded criminal defendants by the State and Federal constitutions, including the right to not be tried or convicted more than once for a single crime. If you are faced with criminal charges, the experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can develop effective arguments in your defense to help you strive for a favorable legal outcome. You can reach us at 800-283-7442 or through the online form to set up a conference.